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FEMA says it will be providing personal protective equipment to American Samoa soon

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The federal government is providing assistance to American Samoa, under US President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first shipment of personal protective equipment is due to arrive on island soon.

This is according to US Federal Emergency Management official Holly Fuller, during a FEMA briefing at Monday’s cabinet meeting. She and another FEMA official Carolyn Ahulau are in the territory to provide support through the federal government.

Fuller first pointed out that each resident can help protect the community by following ASG’s guidance and the guidance of the Health Department. She notes that some of the most effective measures to prevent the COVID-19 spread, which includes social distancing and washing hands.

She commended local officials for preventive measures implemented already. “I think you’re doing a great job,” she told the cabinet meeting and provided a “quick overview of the fact” of the federal emergency declaration which the President declared on Mar. 13th and the incident-period for that event that goes back to Jan. 20th.

“So any measures you took from Jan. 20th will be covered under this emergency declaration,” and it authorizes the category B, Public Assistance, which is emergency protective measures at a 75%-25% cost share, she explained (which means 75% covered by the feds and 25% by ASG).

She gave examples of some of the emergency protective measures covered under Category B — Public Assistance, including management and control reduction of immediate threat to public safety. “So your operation centers that you have activated, those costs will be covered under the cost-share,” she explained.

Also covered: emergency medical care and sheltering; purchase and distribution of food, and water and medical supplies; movement of supplies and people; security and law enforcement; communication to the public on health and safety; “as well as any reimbursement for territory and local government on overtime costs as long as they’re supporting this event,” she explained.

Fuller said FEMA has developed a fact sheet that provides an overview of all the specific eligible protective measures for FEMA and have distributed it to the ASG Emergency Operations Center in Tafuna and copies were to be distributed to cabinet members.

Cabinet members were also informed that the first shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) was to arrive later this week and the federal government is working on sending out a second shipment.

ASG officials have noted during previous cabinet meetings that one of the serious issues that they working on, is to secure PPE, as there is a global shortage and American Samoa lacks sufficient supply for medical personnel and others.

Fuller told Monday’s cabinet meeting that the US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) along with its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also have some grant funding available through the president’s declaration and the local Health Department has been working on things like PPE.

“We’re also working on getting a fact sheet on what else is covered [from USDHHS] on how they can assist the territory,” said Fuller. “So Carolyn and I are here to support in any way we can. We will help you with requests.”

One of the issues that FEMA officials will look at — based on an inquiry from Administrative Law Judge Marie Alailima — is whether the federal declaration covers workmen’s compensation for ASG workers sent-out in the field as first responders as well as ASG employees working from home should they catch the virus.

ASG Commerce director Keniseli Lafaele explained to cabinet members that the US Small Business Administration has approved assistance for American Samoa through the federal declaration — following the governor’s request to SBA last week Thursday.

SBA announced in a news release on Mar. 21st that the federal agency is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to American Samoa small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 23rd for details.)

Yesterday, SBA provided online links to paper applications as it is experiencing high activity on the electronic application website:

SBA expects the disaster loan application portal to be updated in the coming day or so.